Steve Wheeler – Terminal Velocity


The EP release Terminal Velocity from composer Steve Wheeler is an instrumental effort, but listeners fond of such material will embrace the color and texture filling this work. It’s an obvious statement of music imagination in a time when people are often talking about the ongoing dumbing down of popular music. Wheeler is an antidote to such feelings and conversations. His considerable experience as a composer for big ticket sports programming and cutting edge games puts him far ahead of many contemporaries in regards to structuring compositions for maximum effect and, perhaps surprisingly, Wheeler avoids any whiff of self indulgence on the release. Terminal Velocity’s three songs never overstay their welcome and the EP’s dramatic style and visceral sound will figuratively grab the listener by their collar with its immediacy.

It begins in near epic fashion with the song “Terminal Velocity”. Leading off your studio recording with its title song can be heard multiple ways – perhaps it’s simply the best song for the spot, but it can also signal the high confidence level of the musician or band by kicking things off with a song that’s traditionally looked to as some sort of definitive musical statement for each release. If so, his confidence is fully justified. “Terminal Velocity” wastes no time introducing listeners to Wheeler’s grand musical vision and it’s nothing less than astonishing to hear how he can balance so many disparate musical threads in one composition. There are melodies galore in the music, but Wheeler is particularly interested in gentleness with this song and the melodic strengths are, thus, writ large for his audience. It’s an outstanding opening curtain for the EP.

He manages to further ratchet up the intensity with the EP’s second cut “Fist of the Heavens”. The percussion is as assertive, if not more so, than what we heard with the title song and there’s a stronger presence of synthesizers and other electronic effects here than the opener. The classical influences in Wheeler’s music, particularly in regards to his use of brass and compositional structure, come across more with this song than the EP’s other two numbers. Terminal Velocity closes with its longest song, by far, “The Endless March of Time”. It’s a potentially portentous title, but Wheeler pulls back on the grandeur of the EP’s preceding songs in favor of a slower, muted, more thoughtful approach. The song’s first half is the lightest part of the release on the whole, but there’s a certain amount of storytelling logic present in this song as the mood darkens during the song’s second half and some of the idiosyncratic touches, particularly percussion, distinguishing the first two songs return in the second part of “The Endless March of Time” to make a deep impact on listeners. Steve Wheeler’s EP project sounds like part of a soundtrack for an epic film, but the epic is clearly one of his own making alone and we’re happy to accompany him for the inspired ride.

Sebastian Cole